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Posts Tagged ‘in memoriam’

Editor’s Note:  I did not know Laura Marcus personally, but her passing on Sept. 22 has prompted tributes from scholars and institutions around the world. Here is one of them, posted on the English faculty web page of the University of Oxford, where she was a Fellow of New College. Tributes to her scholarship, as well as her teaching and friendship, were also posted on social media.

Laura Marcus

Professor Laura Marcus

We are devastated to report the death on Wednesday 22 September 2021 after a short illness of Professor Laura Marcus FBA, Goldsmiths Professor of English Literature in the Faculty of English and Fellow of New College. In her influential work on modernism and Virginia Woolf, on life-writing and fiction and film, Professor Marcus was admired for her immense scholarly range, her mastery of theory and narrative and genres, her deep knowledge of literary and cultural connections and influences, and her illuminating, serious interest in, and practice of, feminist thought. Her book publications include Auto/biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (1994), Virginia Woolf: Writers and their Work (1997/2004), The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period (2007). She was bringing to completion a new monograph built on her project ‘Rhythmical Subjects: the measures of the modern’ which the Faculty of English and Oxford University Press hope to see through to publication.

Her service to her profession and her subject was unstinting and inspiring. She was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2011 and was a much-loved, passionately engaged supervisor and mentor of other scholars at all stages of their careers. As a Delegate at Oxford University Press for approaching ten years, Laura read and evaluated hundreds of proposals across the span of literary studies and music and had a shaping influence on the Literature list, working closely with its editors. Colleagues at all levels of the Press found her to be a wonderful and supportive adviser, full of warmth and of interest in their work.

Miles Young, Warden of New College says, “New College grieves for Laura Marcus: she loved this college which had been her Oxford home for over ten years, and we loved her. Continuing a distinguished succession of Goldsmiths’ Professors, she added a particular lustre to the title through the creative breadth of her research and writing. She will be missed as a colleague who represented the epitome of academic courtesy, conscience and companionship.”

Professor Isobel Armstrong remembers: “Laura was a friend for almost forty years. These are my memories of her when she taught at Southampton. She seemed born with a formidable archival knowledge, worn so lightly. Unique was her intellectual charm and generosity as interlocutor: she would listen intently to someone’s ideas and then give them back creatively transformed, expanded and deepened, a wonderful gift even at her most stringent. She was innately witty – ‘you have to love a book enough to begin writing it and hate it enough to finish it.’”

Dame Hermione Lee FBA, FRSL speaks for so many of us who had the privilege of knowing Laura Marcus: “Writing on autobiography, Laura quoted Katherine Mansfield’s idea of the self as a plant which comes to the light: ‘and – we are alive – we are flowering for our moment upon the earth’. That flowering self of hers was grand, vital and lavish, and gave colour and brightness to all who encountered it. ”

Laura Marcus will be sorely missed.

 

 

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Kind. Gentle. Tough. Those were the words used to describe Cecil Woolf in the Camden New Journal story reporting on the Oct. 19 memorial service held in his honor at St. Peter’s Church in Belgravia, London.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at their home in London, June 2017.

About 150 friends, relatives, colleagues, and admirers attended the service for Cecil, the oldest living relative of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who died June 10 in London at the age of 92.

Claire Nicholson, chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Vivien Whelpton of the War Poets Association spoke, as did his widow, Jean Moorcroft Wilson. Each recalled Cecil’s work as a a gentleman, a publisher, and an advocate for social justice.

More memorials in print

Issue 95, the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany will include a special section devoted to Cecil.

In addition, a paper based on the panel “The Woolfs, Bloomsbury, and Social Justice: Cecil Woolf Monographs Past and Present,” which was presented at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, has been accepted for publication in the two-volume conference proceedings. Published by Clemson University Press, each volume will include 16 essays.

Retitled “The Woolfs, Bloomsbury, and Social Justice: the Ongoing Legacy of Cecil Woolf Publishers as an Advocate for Social Justice,” the paper will be co-written by:

  • Karen Levenback (Franciscan Monastery). Introduction to Cecil Woolf Publishers
  • Lois Gilmore (Bucks County Community College), “A Legacy of Social Justice in Times of War and Peace.”
  • Paula Maggio (Blogging Woolf), “Cecil Woolf Publishers: Using the Power of the Press to Advocate for Peace.”
  • Todd Avery (University of Massachusetts, Lowell), “Just Lives of the Obscure: Cecil Woolf, Biography, and Social Justice.”
  • Vara Neverow (Southern Connecticut State University) Respondent

This photo of Cecil Woolf as a young lance-corporal fighting in Italy in the Second World War was used on the cover of the Order of Service at his Oct. 19 memorial service.

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A fourth obituary for Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf who died June 10 in London, was published yesterday. This one appears in The Telegraph. It is listed below, along with the other three.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at the Nov. 22, 2014,
unveiling of the Blue Plaque at Frome Station, which recognized the marriage of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

He had too much style and charm, however, to say more at the events and conferences he was prevailed upon to attend than that he always saw Virginia through the prism of his childhood in the 1930s. Then, she was merely a well-regarded writer rather than a feminist icon. – The Telegraph

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Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at their home in London, June 2017.

The funeral of Cecil Woolf, who died June 10, will be held at Golders Green Crematorium, 62 Hoop Lane, NW11 7NL, on Monday 24 June at 3 p.m.

Golders Green Tube station is a 10-minute walk away. Parking is available both at the crematorium and after 10 a.m. on Hoop Lane.

A memorial service will also be held in late September or early October, but details have not yet been set.

His legacy

Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf, was renowned by the Woolf community. Some tributes to his legacy have occurred; others are planned.

They include: 

  • O outro garoto na Hogarth Press: homenagem a Cecil Woolf
  • Dedication of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Dalloway Day events at Waterstones Gower Street to Cecil Woolf.
  • A special section devoted to Cecil Woolf will be included in an upcoming issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany. A call for papers will be sent soon.
  • The next issue of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Bulletin will be dedicated to Cecil Woolf.

Obituary notices

Cecil Woolf’s official obituary was published in The Times on June 15. Photos of the print story are available.

Cecil Woolf’s wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, also wrote an obituary that ran in the Camden News Journal. We reprint it below, with thanks to the family for sharing it.

Cecil James Sidney Woolf (20 February 1927-10 June 2019)

Cecil Woolf, the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, has died aged 92, the last person alive to have known Virginia personally; he was 14 when she committed suicide. But he was equally proud of Leonard, who died when Cecil was 42 and whose London house he shared for nearly a decade. He himself observed of Leonard, ‘How does one sum up a person as many-sided as that?’,  a remark equally applicable to his multi-talented nephew, who was a man of many parts. As his schooldays at Stowe revealed, Cecil had an exceptional mind, not only taking the equivalent of A-levels a year early, for example, but also gaining the top mark in the whole country in the English Literature paper. But instead of going on to a top university, as expected, he enlisted in the army at the age of sixteen. Entering as a private in the tank regiment in 1943, he was quickly promoted to the rank of captain for his undoubted ability, fighting in the tail-end of the Second World War in Italy, where he learnt to speak fluent Italian – ‘it’s so like Latin’, he would explain modestly –  and Palestine. Italy, Venice in particular, became for him the ‘great good place’.

After demobilization in 1947, Cecil joined the stockbroking firm of Woolf, Christie founded by two of his childless uncles, who wanted him to carry on the family business. Though he rapidly mastered the various branches of the trade, he left after only a few years to start his own antiquarian book business, happily forfeiting the guaranteed money and security of the Stock Exchange for the challenges and independence he anticipated as a free-lance writer and bookseller. It was typical of this fiercely independent man that, although Virginia Woolf was becoming recognized as one of  Britain’s greatest novelists by the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, he never traded on his relationship to her, and remained modest and unassuming almost to a fault. Likewise, though he had grown up in a house built by Cardinal Wolsey on James de Rothschild’s Waddesdon Estate and was directly related to James through James’s wife Dorothy, he never boasted of the fact or used it to his advantage. And he never tried for popular fame, though he was gifted enough to do so; he preferred a less obvious route. As a writer his bibliographies of Norman Douglas and Baron Corvo and his editions of Corvo’s novels, poems and letters are models of their kind.

Then in nineteen sixty, Cecil founded his own publishing house, inspired undoubtedly by the example of Leonard Woolf, whom he had helped at the Hogarth Press from an early age. His encouragement of young writers, like Leonard’s, became legendary. Drew Shannon was one of many grateful authors who treasured Cecil’s help, while at the same time becoming a good friend:

I think every Woolfian who met Cecil spent the first bit of time in his presence overcoming the fact that he KNEW VIRGINIA WOOLF. But happily this was really the least of it, at least for me, and I quickly began to love the man for himself: for his wit, his charm, his ceaseless energy, his tack-sharp mind, his kindness and consideration. And, underneath his charm, there was his biting wit. I will forever cherish the occasional whispered remark in my ear at many an event, remarks calculated to make me giggle and which required whatever poise I possess to keep myself straight-faced. And what might’ve seemed like name-dropping to the outsider was simply a catalog of his friendships and acquaintances. He’d say, “Jean, what year was it that we had Edward Heath over for dinner?” (Yes, that Edward Heath.) Or, “I bumped into Quentin Crisp in Regent’s Park, and he said…” Or, “T. S. Eliot once said to me…” And his priceless anecdote about Duncan Grant, looking long-haired and shaggy in the 1960s, wandering around Piccadilly; when questioned by Cecil about his appearance, Duncan spacily replied, “Well…my barber died.”

After Cecil’s first marriage ended in the late sixties, he began a relationship with Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who became his second wife and partner in the publishing business. Together over a period of fifty years they explored their shared and separate interests, Cecil’s obsession with the novelist John Cowper Powys inspiring the John Cowper Powys monographs, Jean’s fascination with the First World War poets, on whom (encouraged by Cecil) she would write a number of biographies, giving rise to their War Poets’ series and their joint admiration for Leonard and Virginia Woolf spawning their Bloomsbury heritage titles, always eagerly awaited at annual Virginia Woolf Conferences in America and England. Together they would edit two highly topical books,Authors Takes Sides on the Falklands and Authors Take Sides on the Gulf and Iraq. Cecil’s meticulous attention to detail ensured books of the highest quality in both content and appearance. He was running Cecil Woolf Publishers with Jean’s help until shortly before his death.

Moving to Camden Town in 1979, Cecil became a familiar figure walking along the High Street in his tweed jacket and corduroys. His burning sense of justice led him to fight long and hard for a number of causes, including the extradition of a local shopkeeper. (This prompted a letter from the Home Secretary but sadly failed to save the shopkeeper.) And he and Jean organized an exhausting but ultimately successful campaign to reopen Mornington Crescent tube station when it was threatened with closure.(At the reopening ceremony, hosted by Humphry Lyttelton, chair of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, Cecil was mistaken for Lyttelton, whom he slightly resembled.) Coming late to fatherhood at 47, Cecil was as closely involved in the care and upbringing of their five children, Kate, Philip, Emma, Alice and Trim , as any father could be, introducing them to wonderful books on his nightly readings to them and leaving them with a passionate love of literature and ideas. They were all   devoted to him.

Cecil was a man who chose his words very carefully and every one of them counted. And although he thrived in the world of ideas, he was enormously practical: when he and Jean eventually found the ‘little ruin’ in France they had been searching for at the extremely modest price they could afford, it was Cecil who plumbed and wired it, Jean acting as plumber’s and electrician’s mate. Anything, he believed, was possible if you could find the right book to advise you. A man of striking contradictions, he was at the some time one of the most serious yet most humorous and witty people imaginable. Though stubborn, even at time pugnacious in a cause he believed in, he was also conspicuously kind, very gentle and always polite and considerate. An essentially private, rather shy man in his younger years, he took to public speaking in later life with surprising enjoyment. He talked with increasing pleasure of his early memories of staying with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House, Rodmell, or at Tavistock Square, their last house in Bloomsbury, where he helped them pack books for the Hogarth Press orders in the basement.

It is not for his memories of a literary icon only that Cecil will be remembered by his family and friends, however, or even for his wonderful books, but for his originality as a person, his creativeness, his brilliance, his generosity, his kindness and his essential humanity.

Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf on stage at the 2016 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Leeds Trinity University.

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Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf who was renowned by the Woolf community, died June 10 in London. The official obituary of this gentleman, scholar, and founder of Cecil Woolf Publishers, is now in The Times.

Cecil Woolf stops at 46 Gordon Square, London, while giving Blogging Woolf a personalized tour of Bloomsbury.

Although it is behind a paywall, you can read the entire piece by signing up for a free one-month trial subscription. For another option, look at the photos of the newspaper story included at the bottom of this post.

Other tributes to Cecil include:

Book and floral display at Dalloway Day events at Waterstones Gower Street in London, with a photo of Cecil Woolf in Tavistock Square, taken by Blogging Woolf, as the centerpiece. Photo courtesy of Vara Neverow.

A special thanks to Emma Woolf, daughter of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who shared the photo of The Times June 15, 2019, obituary of her father on Facebook.

Emma Woolf shared this photo of The Times obituary on her Facebook page.

Vara Neverow sent Blogging Woolf this photo of Cecil Woolf’s June 15, 2019, obituary in The Times.

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